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Belarus opposition denies responsibility for Sunday riots

RIA Novosti

13:56 21/12/2010

MINSK, December 21 (RIA Novosti) - Leaders of opposition parties and democratic movements in Belarus blamed the authorities on Tuesday for provoking violence in the aftermath of the recent presidential elections.

Thousands of Belarusians were brutally dispersed in clashes with Interior Ministry troops late on Sunday when opposition protestors tried to storm the parliament after preliminary results showed strongman Alexander Lukashenko had won his fourth consecutive term as president.

At least seven election candidates and over 600 opposition demonstrators were arrested.

"We planned an absolutely peaceful [protest] action, but the authorities resorted to provocative measures and we demand that those responsible be identified," said Grigoriy Kostusev, one of the opposition candidates who escaped arrest.

Kostusev said the opposition was planning to hold a rally near a detention center in Minsk in solidarity with arrested protesters.

According to official data, most of the arrested have received 15-day administrative jail sentences, while a few were fined.

The post-election violence in Minsk drew sharp criticism from the European Union and the United States, and is likely to kill off any hope of rapprochement between Belarus and the West.

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